Schwab Postpones Biz Update, Sparks Merger Chatter

In a rare move, Charles Schwab said on Friday that it has postponed its fall business update with analysts, citing “scheduling difficulties.” A company official confirmed that the biannual meeting—originally set for Nov. 16—had been postponed and no new date set. This is only the second time that a meeting of this caliber has been postponed. Its June 2005 analyst confab was also postponed.

In a rare move, Charles Schwab said on Friday that it has postponed its fall business update with analysts, citing “scheduling difficulties.” A company official confirmed that the biannual meeting—originally set for Nov. 16—had been postponed and no new date set. This is only the second time that a meeting of this caliber has been postponed. Its June 2005 analyst confab was also postponed.

While the delay could be due to completely innocuous reasons, one analyst thinks the move could signal a major development at the firm. In a research note to clients, Fox-Pitt Kelton analyst David Trone writes, “Simple scheduling conflicts seem dubious…we reason that something major is up at Charles Schwab.” He speculates that the decision to push back the meeting could have been made to accommodate serious merger discussions, plans to counter Bank of America’s free trade offer or a serious illness of a top executive.

Another analyst, who spoke off the record, told Registered Rep. that Deborah McWhinney, the head of its institutional business, is “very sick” and can’t attend. And that the CFO, Christopher Dodds, was going to be out anyway. So with two executives absent, the company opted to reschedule for early December. “I don’t think there is anything more to read into this announcement,” he says. Reports that her illness was the cause for the postponement are apparently false, however. McWhinney has been successfully treated for cancer and is indeed healthy. Glenn Mathison, a Schwab spokesman, declined to comment on McWhinney’s health but noted that she delivered a keynote address this morning at the company’s annual IMPACT conference in Washington, D.C. She was also not scheduled to present at the analyst meeting on Nov. 16, he says.

Nevertheless, rumors of a major merger announcement have spurred movement in the stock. Shares of Schwab were trading up 26 cents, or 1.45 percent, at $18.26 around midday.

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